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kndlklan - Posted - 10/17/2022:  10:52:39

I am left handed, but I don't play banjo left handed. I would say that I am at a pretty solid intermediate level. I recently found out that I have arthritis in my left shoulder which gets inflamed when I play or practice. I am considering trying to play left handed and wonder if anyone has any advice on what I should do next. Should I try and purchase an inexpensive lefty, or is there a way that I can try one out before committing to buying one?
Any advice is appreciated,
Kathy Kendle

stanleytone - Posted - 10/17/2022:  11:10:05

Maybe get a very plain lefty neck made for your banjo? A cheap lefty banjo might cost the same as a neck but if its a cheap banjo it may be harder to re learn on if its not as good as what youre used to.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 10/17/2022:  11:22:54

I'm also a lefty who plays right handed. I have arthritis in my shoulders, back and in my fingers. It slows me down, but doesn't stop me. I sit when I play and have a strap that takes most of the weight of my shoulder. Practice is usually no more than 30 minutes at a time and the back and shoulders start speaking loudly to me.

I'm wondering if perhaps you are trying to practice/play for too long a time and that might be part of the problem. You might try every other remedy you can find before trying to learn to play left handed. Can it be done? Sure. Do you really want to go back to beginner status and develop that muscle memory all over again? If so, go for it.

You might try some over-the-counter pain products/rubs. I use Lidocaine occasionally to stop the back/shoulder pain. Heat helps soothe the muscles and ice helps stop the pain. I take an Aleve and/or ibuprofen occasionally to help with the pain.

You might ask your doctor if there's anything you can do to alleviate the pain and continue picking.

As far as trying out a lefty banjo, are there any music shops in your area that carry banjos? You might ask if they have or know anyone who plays a lefty banjo. Are there any festivals (it's kind of late for them now) that you could go to? How about jam sessions?

Owen - Posted - 10/17/2022:  15:15:57

Like Sherry says ^^, check with your doc. I've gotten some relief from steroid injections and arthroscopic debridement in some joints [knees and elbows; haven't had to do shoulders ... yet.  I had several cortisone shots in the base of my left thumb a few years ago... apparently that + time resolved the issue... no injections in recent memory.  

I had a friend that got twice-yearly "Synvisc" injections in his knees that helped significantly for a couple of years until he opted for replacement.    For sure it's not for everybody, but ...........???


Edited by - Owen on 10/17/2022 15:24:14

Owen - Posted - 10/17/2022:  15:37:50

... too late to ^^ edit.... though I think there's more anecdotal support than there is clinical for acupuncture, I think I'd at least look into it.

kndlklan - Posted - 10/17/2022:  17:10:03

I have had one steroid shot in my shoulder and can only get one every 3 months. The shot worked great for about 7 weeks, so I'm waiting anxiously to get my next one in Nov.
I play bassoon in our symphony (This is my 49th year.) and to protect myself during Sym week, I don't pick up my banjo all week. Y'all KNOW that's hard... I'm addicted to the banjo even though I only play for my own enjoyment. This is why I'm considering taking a drastic measure like trying left handed banjo. I don't want to give up right handed all together. I think it would be good for the old brain to try and "switch hit". I may be crazy, but don't we all get enough flack by even admitting we play banjo and love it?!

banjo5280 - Posted - 10/17/2022:  18:28:22

I too am left-handed but play right-handed (when I started guitar at age 12, I figured I did not know how to play "with either hand"). I also am an ex-university gymnast with multiple rotator cuff/shoulder reconstructions (yep, more than two!). The suggestions above are all potentially useful, but I would add that you could investigate physical therapy/ rehab/occupational therapy. Your goal would be to locate a therapist willing to accept your desire/need to play banjo and then strengthen/motivate/improve the appropriate musculature. Any qualified therapist COULD help, but the successful one MUST ACCEPT your banjo playing. Good luck. Therapy may hurt but is often the key to improvement and success.

JollyRogers - Posted - 10/18/2022:  06:27:28

I switched from right handed to left handed banjo picking scruggs style. I am a left handed person. I had injured my right hand, and could no longer pick like I used to, so switched. I play guitar right handed, and now I play CH banjo right handed.

My left hand could pick. In fact it could drive better than my right ever could. Though I had success, I reached a blocker pretty quick. My right hand couldn’t fret full chords and had problems with reach.

So it can be done. My right hand limitation was due to my injury. In the end I tried clawhammer righty, and could do it, so went down that path, and sold my left handed banjo (and all but one resonator banjo).

If you have a gibson style banjo, I would recommend purchasing a left handed neck from gold tone, and having it mated to your pot and give it a go. Or purchasing an “inexpensive” left handed RK or GT. If you were in VA, I’d loan you my left handed neck I kept. You could also post up in FB or somewhere for help, maybe someone in Texas plays lefty and will let you at least attemt it on their banjo. 

Edited by - JollyRogers on 10/18/2022 06:30:36

stanleytone - Posted - 10/18/2022:  14:45:22

Kathy you said you play bassoon. I played tuba in the past. But i always wished i had taken bassoon. I think thats the koolest instrument.

monstertone - Posted - 10/19/2022:  08:32:18

As everyone has advised, start with your GP, & go from there. Don't settle for excuses. As far as BHO goes, there is a post asking about reverse aging, or something like that, on the Bluegrass/Scruggs Style forum that has a link for "Super Human". If nothing else, interesting read. YMMV.  

1935tb-11 - Posted - 10/20/2022:  08:10:50

therapy and injections will get you the most success. therapy is painful and time consuming but it does help... i had what they called frozen shoulder from years of lifting heavy tooling above my head while squatting. and i had to go for therapy for about 3 months twice a week and along with a couple of injections it helped. i now can raise my arm slightly above vertical out to the side and it relieved the pain when i played banjo by 80%. good luck i hope you find the right combo.

monstertone - Posted - 10/20/2022:  10:44:19

I used to fish two hand fly rods for Steelhead & Salmon five day a week, year round.  Several years into this, my right shoulder started giving me trouble. My GP recommended giving it a rest, which only made it worse. Not being one to accept age related problems, I consulted a shoulder specialist.  Two Cortisone shots over a couple months of physical therapy & I was as good as new.

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